Ways to avoid mastitis

Geraldine Miskin offers tips on how to prevent the painful breast infection while breastfeeding

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When breastfeeding milk can build up in your breasts because its being made faster than it’s removed which then causes milk stasis. Because of this breast tissue can become swollen and inflamed. The inflammation can quickly progress to an infection, which is known as mastitis.

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Mastitis is quickly and easily resolved when you know how and there are simple preventative strategies you can apply too.

To avoid developing mastitis, the breasts need to be emptied well on a frequent basis. If the breasts aren’t drained well or if they aren’t drained frequently enough, a backlog of milk will build up. This leads to the breasts feeling hot, heavy and uncomfortable.

In order for your breasts to be drained well, your baby needs to be positioned well. Good positioning will result in effective draining of the breasts and will also prevent your nipples from becoming sore.

Here are a few positioning tips:

Supporting your baby:
Line your baby up nose to nipple (often using the opposite arm to the breast you are feeding from, is more effective at getting the right position)

You are aiming for an off centre latch:
Your baby’s lower lip needs to be further away from the nipple when latching, and the top lip needs to be right next to the nipple. Bring your baby onto the breast quickly and once he is latched, ensure that both his cheeks are touching the breast. This allows him to drain both the upper and lower half of the breast equally (when one cheek pulls away from the breast, that part of the breast is not drained effectively and can lead to blockages or mastitis).

Other tips:

If your nipples are tender don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner or health visitor

Feed your baby regularly from both breasts

Keep a bracelet or band the arm of whichever side you fed from last to keep drainage regular.

Apply something cold to the breast to reduce swelling and inflammation between feeds.

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Apply something hot to the breast to encourage milk flow just before feeding.

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